Updated: Feb 27
"It's really hard to make art to begin with. It's even harder if you can't pay your bills doing it."
~ Robert Broadhurst, Writer, Director
As consultants and Advisory Producers specializing in branding and marketing, this quote from MAKE IT podcast guest Robert Broadhurst really hit home. Creativity and art are at the core of filmmaking, but branding and marketing are at the core of business. In other words, if you want to make it in film, make art. If you want to make it in the film business, brand and market your art.
When we started our interviews in the pre-podcast days of walking around with a handheld sound recorder at film festivals, we would often ask filmmakers what it meant to them to "make it" in the film industry. Most of them responded with something along the lines of "to make a living from my art". If this is true for most filmmakers, then why is making money the last thing on so many filmmakers' minds when setting out to make a film?
At this point, I can't even count the number of pitch decks we've read over the years, but we could probably count (on one hand) the number of pitch decks that actually included a marketing plan. If the ultimate goal is to make money doing what you love, then why don't you have a plan to make money?
I've begun to wonder if this is simply a case of "you don't know what you don't know". Film production templates like call sheets, film budgets, and production schedules are often passed down and passed across from person to person. Since we've never seen a proposed indie film budget that contains line items for branding, marketing, digital asset management, social media ad buys, website development, or social media management, maybe its because filmmakers are still using old and outdated templates. If it's not in the template, you don't know it's missing.
But I don't think that's a valid excuse anymore. Indie films aren't being picked up in droves and sold for millions to the likes of Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video. It's not a model that exists. Waiting to be discovered in a world where content is dripping from every screen imaginable isn't a business plan; it's a pipe dream. As an indie filmmaker, you have to start taking control of your own fate by building a business around yourself and your art. If you don't, the best you can expect is to be picked up by a distributor who licenses your project for ten to fifteen years and offers you what's left of the profits after they've collected their fees. In this case, you become the fuel to their getaway car. (Their really nice getaway car.)
As Robert said, "It's really hard to make art to begin with. It's even harder if you can't pay your bills doing it." Don't make filmmaking harder than it needs to be. If you spend as much time thinking about how you're going to turn a profit as you do about how you're going to get that pinnacle scene just right, you may just find yourself in the black before shooting even starts. And if the business of film isn't your forte, team up within someone who can bridge that gap. It's the only way to truly "MAKE IT".
A big 'thank you' goes out to Robert Broadhurst for a wonderful conversation full of thoughtful insights and reflections on so many aspects of filmmaking. There are so many quotes that stuck in our minds and we look forward to unpacking all the goodness he dropped on his episode of the MAKE IT podcast. If you'd like to learn more about his work, check him out at robertdirects.com.
Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.